Tue 7th February
Speaking after asking the Finance Minister whether or not he had discussed the impact of welfare reform on our economy with the Chancellor and Treasury Ministers, the Foyle MLA said:
“Sammy Wilson’s omission of the impact of welfare reform on our economy during his discussions with the Coalition Government shows just how low benefit cuts are on his priority list and, worryingly, highlights how ill-prepared the Executive is on this huge issue.
“These changes to our benefits system would be better described as ‘unfair reform’ as they target some of the most vulnerable people in our communities including the disabled and those already living in poverty as well as squeezing working families by reducing tax credits.
“These benefit cuts will mean that people will have even less disposable income to spend on goods and services to stimulate our economy. This will inevitably result in more businesses in the North going to the wall and people losing their jobs.
“The Finance Minister seems to think that these changes will be good for people on benefits as it will force them into work, but this is virtually impossible when there is such a severe lack of employment in the North despite the Executive’s commitment in the Programme for Government to create over 25,000 jobs.
“The SDLP has been flagging up these issues for some time and we will be meeting Lord Freud on Wednesday to reinforce the message that these changes will have a disproportionate impact on people in Northern Ireland in comparison to other areas.
“We are calling on the Executive to make welfare reform a top political priority rather than sleepwalking into a disastrous situation which will further disadvantage people in real need and harm our economy.”
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